[okfn-discuss] Open Data: a means to an end, not an end in itself

Peter Murray-Rust pm286 at cam.ac.uk
Fri Sep 16 10:50:01 BST 2011

On Fri, Sep 16, 2011 at 10:33 AM, Rufus Pollock <rufus.pollock at okfn.org>wrote:

> Hi All,
> I've just posted up a new post on the OKFN blog:
> <
> http://blog.okfn.org/2011/09/15/open-data-a-means-to-an-end-not-an-end-in-itself/
> >
> I've also inlined it below. Any comments or feedback either on the
> blog or here on list are very welcome :-)
> Rufus
When I talk/write about Open Data I often use the axes:
* moral
* ethical
* legal
* pragmatic

* Moral. You have a moral responsibility to make the data Open. Examples are
when you have been funded (publicly or privately) and the intention of the
funder (and more widely society) is that the data is for the wider good
(e.g. patients)
* ethical. (a blurred boundary with moral) Where it would be ethically
irresponsible not to make the data Open because it would harm some or all of
society. Safety of substances. sequences of viral strains.
* legal. Where it is required legally (this is clearly getting stronger
because funders, FoI, etc. are also requiring this). So it's good practice
* pragmatic. Probably the most useful day-to-day. data is a pseudo-currency
that attracts more data. Not by barter, but by building common pools of
shared data. This is the argument for pre-competitive sharing in industry
(e.g. releasing chemical-biological data from pharma industry). It also
enhances the quality of decision making. It helps finds incorrect data
(either by comparison or algorithms). It builds reference data (there are
huge amounts of needed reference data - organisations such as NIST exist for
this purpose). Costs are lowered, timescales are reduced by having data
available for decision-making ). This is a huge area and it would certainly
be worth working it up more.


Peter Murray-Rust
Reader in Molecular Informatics
Unilever Centre, Dep. Of Chemistry
University of Cambridge
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